Never do this — unless you want big debit card problems

Shelby Harding’s kindness led to big debit card problems — 250 of them to be exact.

She allowed a friend to use her debit card for a stay at a Super 8. The hotel and local police say the friend caused a commotion at the property and smoked in the room. Now Harding is being charged $250 to clean up this mess. And she would like our advocacy team to help get her money back.

But is she owed anything other than a life lesson that you don’t use your debit card to book a “friend’s” hotel room?

Harding’s friend needed a hotel room for one night in Rapid City, S.D. Harding agreed to book the room and used her debit card to pay for it. Her friend checked into the Super 8 on the designated evening and learned that she needed to check out of the room before noon the next day.

The next morning, Harding’s friend didn’t leave the hotel before noon and Harding was unable to contact her friend. After multiple attempts to reach her, Harding called the hotel, but the staff couldn’t contact the room either. So Harding contacted the police, requesting a welfare check on her friend.

Big debit card problems  — 250 of them

The police arrived at the hotel, and officers entered the room with hotel staff. Soon after, they escorted Harding’s friend off the property. And the hotel charged an additional $250 to Harding’s debit card.

Harding claims she tried multiple times to speak with the manager of the hotel but was never able to do so. The hotel staff told her the $250 charge was for her friend who had smoked in the room. But when Harding confronted her friend with that information, she replied that she doesn’t smoke.

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Seeking help to get more information from the hotel — and get her $250 back — Harding contacted us. She could have reached out to the executives we list for the Wyndham Hotel Group (Super 8 is a member of the Wyndham Group), but I don’t think they would help get her $250 back.

The FCBA provisions can’t resolve debit card problems

As Meghan Robinson also learned when she used a debit card to buy a $4,000 mini pig, debit card purchases are not protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA).

The FCBA dispute resolution provisions apply only to “open end” credit accounts, including credit cards and revolving charge accounts. The law requires that the credit card company investigate any charges that you believe are erroneous. They credit the amount in dispute until they resolve the dispute. There are specific rules regarding the investigation and resolution of these disputes.

No such provisions cover debit card charges. Consumers are forced to deal directly with the companies that made the erroneous charges.

Our executive director Michelle Couch-Friedman worked on Harding’s case. She learned from hotel management that multiple hotel staff and the police confirmed that Harding’s friend, without a doubt, smoked in the room. Harding is lucky the charge was only $250 since some hotels can charge thousands of dollars to remediate cigarette smoke in a room.

Neither the Super 8 nor her friend agreed to reimburse Harding the $250. This incident is an expensive lesson for Harding to learn, and we hope other readers learn it without losing $250. Don’t use a debit card for hotels. And if a “friend” wants you to use your credit card to book her hotel room, just say no.

Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans. Read more of Michelle Bell's articles here.

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